Moving to Tampa, FL? Read Our Guide
Tampa is many things—a major business center and family-friendly town, and a place with beautiful beaches and world-class museum collections. Most of all, it’s a great place to live, whether you choose to be close to downtown, out in one of the many laid-back beach towns, or anywhere in between. If you’re Tampa-bound, here’s what you need to know about your new destination and how our Tampa moving services can help you reach it.
It’s Larger Than You Think
Before you finalize your plans for a residential move to Tampa, it’s good to have the lay of the land. That can be confusing, since the list of cities and counties included in the metro area can differ. The official U.S. Census Bureau definition of the Metropolitan Statistical Area—known as the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater MSA—includes not only Tampa’s Hillsborough County, but also Hernando, Pasco, and Pinellas counties. In some other definitions, it also includes Manatee, Sarasota, Citrus, and Polk counties.
Regardless of just which cities and counties fall within your own definition, the area is most often referred to simply as “Tampa Bay” or “Tampa-St. Pete.” This expansive area has a population estimated at more than 3.1 million people as of 2018 and it’s the fourth-largest metro area in the Southeast. That means you have more than enough choices when you’re looking for a spot that fits your lifestyle.
Making Your Way Around Tampa
Opinions on whether traffic in Tampa is a problem clearly differ. On one hand, Tampa took the #4 slot on WalletHub’s list of best cities in which to drive. On the other, the Tampa Bay Times published a list of the rush-hour bottlenecks that can turn your commute into a nightmare. The takeaway here? Like any populous area, your traffic experience probably depends on how close you live to your workplace. No matter where you move to, you can dial 511 for 24/7 information on traffic and road conditions on the most heavily traveled road segments.
Public transportation is provided by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), which operates the city’s mass transit facilities. It provides these services:
- The local fixed route and express bus service has 200 buses that travel within Hillsborough County
- The MetroRapid North-South service, which operates on weekdays from downtown Tampa and the University of South Florida area with limited stops
- The TECO Line Streetcar system offers a 2.7 mile line at no charge to take riders along downtown and through Ybor City and the Channel District
- The HARTFlex and HARTPlus Paratransit van services offer door-to-door pickup and dropoff
Outside of Tampa proper, you also have several other transportation choices, such as the services provided by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA). The PSTA’s Suncoast Beach Trolley connects all of the beach cities in Tampa Bay seven days a week.
Tampa Bay Area Neighborhoods
Families, singles and retirees will all find a neighborhood to their liking in Tampa Bay. Move to neighborhoods close to downtown or along the coast, or suburbs throughout the area. Look into these neighborhoods and towns as you start your search:
- Ybor City: This is Tampa’s historical epicenter and one of Florida’s cultural jewels. This designated National Historic Landmark district has ties to several immigrant countries, making this a melting pot of international food, architecture, arts and people.
- Hyde Park: Prestigious—but still family-friend and pedestrian-friendly—this historic district has tree-lined streets, brick sidewalks, and plenty of charm.
- Tampa Heights: This neighborhood just north of downtown Tampa is on the rise. After years of some neglect, it’s now one of the area’s most sought-after neighborhoods, thanks to new investments such as Armature Works, a 1910 streetcar barn that now hosts a food hall, rooftap bar, co-working space, restaurants and more. Prices are rising, but homes here are still within reach.
- Seminole Heights: Known as Tampa’s first suburb, Seminole Heights is noted for its mix of historic buildings which have become funky studio lofts and bungalows. It’s a great spot for families and singles who enjoy an easy walk to eateries, yoga classes, a park along the Hillsborough River, and proximity to downtown.
Because the coast plays such a large role in the Tampa Bay area’s list of great places to live, here are a few beach cities to consider:
- Clearwater Beach: Tourists and residents flock to Clearwater Beach for seemingly opposite reasons—the vibrant nightlife and the relaxing shore. It’s a small island, so getting around is easy unless it’s the height of tourist season.
- Indian Rocks Beach: This quaint town has waterfront property along the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico, so you’re never far from outdoor activities. With just three miles of beachfront and about 4,000 residents, Indian Rocks Beach offers quiet living.
- North Redington Beach: This beach tow lies between Boca Ciega Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, and has plenty of beach accesses for residents and visitors. Home choices include a mix of single-family and multi-family housing.
- St. Pete Beach: This beautiful stretch of coastline consistently earns a place on “best beaches” lists. The city has about 10,000 residents counted among its permanent population, but nearly a third of the condos and homes are owned by seasonal residents, so the area is more crowded during cooler months. Whether you’re here full- or part-time, however, St. Pete Beach’s restaurants, shopping, culture, and beaches make it a world-class place to be.
Tampa for Families
If you’re looking for a city that offers plenty of things to do with kids, you’ll be in the right place in Tampa. From a famous theme park to the beaches, options such as these will keep your weekends booked:
- Busch Gardens: Set aside a full day to take in all of the fun at one of Florida’s favorite amusement park destinations. Consider getting an annual pass so you can make frequent visits without breaking the bank.
- Glazer Children’s Museum: Learning is cleverly disguised as fun and exploration at the museum, where kids of all ages can play in their own firehouse, design a train route in the Engineers’ Workshop, paint in ArtSmart, and much more.
- Horse Power for Kids & Animal Sanctuary: Kids between the ages of 7 and 15 can go horseback riding with experienced trail guides and interact with animals at the petting zoo on this non-profit rescue farm.
- ZooTampa at Lowry Park: Parents Magazine named this the #1 zoo in the country. It has activities just for little ones, such as small-scale rides, and you can see most everything in just a couple of hours.
- The Florida Aquarium: What kid wouldn’t want to pet stingrays and starfish and swim with sharks? In addition to a range of exhibits, you can take the 75-minute Wild Dolphin Cruise on a 72-foot powered catamaran.
- Adventure Island: This water park has a 17,000-square-foot wave pool, a lazy river, and 10 water slides.
- Museum of Science and Industry: Hundreds of hands-on activities await at this largest science center in the Southeastern U.S. Don’t miss the planetarium and butterfly garden.
- Water Works Park: Operated by the City of Tampa, Water Works Park has plenty of open green space, picnic areas, a splash pad and playground, and a dog park.
Education in Tampa
The Hillsborough County Public School District operates the public primary and secondary school system in Tampa. It includes 267 schools, including 43 charter schools.
Higher education institutions in the Tampa Bay area include:
- The University of South Florida, the fourth-largest public university in Florida
- The University of Tampa, a medium-sized private university with an urban campus
- Hillsborough Community College, a two-year institution
- Eckerd College, a private Presbyterian liberal arts college in St. Petersburg
- St. Petersburg College
Dining in Tampa
Sampling the local fare is a great way to get to know your new city. This list of Tampa’s best restaurants (and some of their signature dishes) from the Tampa Bay Times highlights the diverse cuisine that can be found throughout the area:
- Rooster & The Till: Gnocchi, lamb loin, sea bass belly
- Noble Rice: Chirashi, sushi and omakase
- Il Ritorno: White truffle risotto, short rib mezzaluna and capellini nero
- Edison: Food+Drink Lab: Wild Maine sea scallops, filet mignon and Florida black grouper
- Cafe Ponte: Beef tenderloin, lobster en croute and beef bolognese
- Dr. BBQ: Korean BBQ pork belly tacos, brisket and Italian beef sandwiches
- Ichicoro Ane: Ramen, poke and grilled pork belly
- Cena: Anitipasti, pasta and risotto
Tampa Arts & Culture
Moving to Tampa, it’s easy to fill your weekend calendar—the Tampa Bay area has some of the state’s best art and cultural destinations:
- The Tampa Bay History Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum with three floors of exhibits. Hands-on activities and immersive theater experienced explore 12,000 years of Florida history. Stay for waterfront dining at the cafe and visit the museum’s store with local artwork and crafts.
- The 53,000-square-foot Glazer Children’s Museum is for kids of all ages. Exhibits, special programs, and seasonal events will keep you coming back year-round.
- The Morean Arts Center is home to multiple arts venues in downtown St. Pete, including the Morean Center for Clay, Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop, and the Chihuly Collection. Classes and group tours are available.
- Take a short drive to Sarasota and make a day of it at The Ringling, where you can enjoy the historic Asolo Theater, Circus Museum, Ca d’Zan Mansion and the lush gardens throughout the grounds.
- The award-winning Tampa Museum of Art focuses on modern, classical, and contemporary art and has one of the largest collections of Roman and Greek antiquities in the Southeast.
- Learn all about the “Cigar Capital of the World’s” role in Tampa’s development at the Ybor City Museum State Park. The museum is housed in the historic Ferlita Bakery building, surrounded by a Mediterranean-style garden. Take a guided tour through the park or a walking tour on your own.
Shopping in Tampa Bay
The seven-county Tampa Bay area offers plenty of shopping options, no matter your taste, style, or shopping list. VisitTampaBay.com has these suggestions:
- Hyde Park Village offers a pleasant afternoon of strolling along brick sidewalks in this tree-lined historic neighborhood. Browse brand-name stores and independent local shops all day, then stay for the nightlife and restaurants.
- The Shops at Wiregrass is an outdoor shopping mall with more than 100 specialty shops and restaurants.
- Ybor City is the destination for unique restaurants, boutiques, and, of course, cigar shops. Check out the Ybor City Saturday Market for local produce, art and more.
- Tampa Premium Outlets has it all, and at deeply discounted prices. Its 100 shops include brand names like Saks Fifth Avenue OFF5th, Tommy Hilfiger, and Coach.
- International Plaza is an enclosed, two-story shopping center close to Tampa International Airport. All of the luxury brands are here, as well as nightlife and dining in the adjacent outdoor Bay Street village.
Important Tampa Links
Use these links to help plan your move to Tampa and get settled once you’re here:
DMV/Driver’s License: New residents have 10 days from the date they either register a child in school or start working in the state in which to register their cars. You have 30 days to transfer your current out-of-state driver’s license.
Voting Registration: The website of the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office has everything you need to know about registering, polling places, and ways to vote.
Hurricane and Emergency Shelters: Find your nearest shelters on the website of The Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Evacuation Maps: You may be subject to mandatory evacuation if a hurricane is forecast to make imminent landfall. The City of Tampa offers a hurricane evacuation assessment tools, plus county evacuation maps and more.
Utilities Companies. Tampa offers a variety of utility services for your power needs, including electricity from Tampa Electrical company, natural gas service from TECO, and water and sewer services provided by The City of Tampa.
Trash and Recycling Services. Tampa’s Office of Solid Waste Services helps take care of trash collection and recycling services. The city also offers bulk trash collection and provides a schedule so you know when to expect pickup.
Call the Experts for Your Move to Tampa/St. Pete
Whether you’re coming to your new home from a nearby neighborhood, elsewhere in Florida, across the country, or even from another country, Suddath® has everything you need to make your residential move to Tampa. You can choose to have us handle everything from end to end, or select one or more of our services.
We’ve been providing moving and storage services in Tampa for half a century, backed by customized customer service. Our expert move coordinators can help you plan every step of your move, from packing and loading, to storage and unloading.
We offer free moving quotes, with three convenient scheduling methods:
- Complete our online quote request form and we will contact you to set a time to visit your home and give you a free estimate.
- Get a smartphone video estimate by scheduling a time to show us your household goods with your mobile device.
- Call us and we’ll talk through your options for a free moving estimate.
Moving to Tampa, FL: FAQ
Compared to other areas of the U.S., Tampa’s housing costs are reasonable, and property taxes average about 2%. Tampa metro area, which includes Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties, came in with a below-average cost of living in 2018 on the quarterly Cost of Living Index report.
There’s no state income tax, which can help you save a not-insignificant sum, but insurance costs can be high. If you plan to own a home in the Tampa Bay area, also plan on paying more for homeowner’s insurance and be prepared to also buy flood and wind policies.
You never have to go far to find beaches, art, dining, shopping or outdoor activities here, but when you want a change of pace, these destinations are within approximately 100 miles:
• The Alexander Springs Recreational Area in the Ocala National Forest has everything from scuba diving and hiking, to camping, swimming, birding and canoeing.
• Just west of Fort Myers on the Caloosahatchee River is the small town of Alva, home to a museum and plenty of Old Florida oaks and Spanish moss. Camp or visit the riverfront Caloosahatchee Regional Park while you’re there.
• Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde offers more than 1,100 acres of five interconnected islands. Visit the historic fort and enjoy more than seven miles of waterfront. Amenities include two swim centers, a dog park, miles of paved trail connecting some of the beaches, a camping area, picnic shelters, boat ramp and much more.
• Orlando’s attractions are just 75 miles to the east, a trip of about 90 minutes. If you’re a dedicated theme park enthusiast, you’ll need to stay a night or two to take in Disney World, the Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, and more.
• You may not think of wineries in this region of Florida, but there are plenty. Rosa Fiorello Winery near Bradenton is a 10-acre vineyard open five days a week for tours and tastings. Near Spring Hill, you’ll find the Strong Tower Vineyard and Winery where you can see the wine being made and sample the products. There’s also the Keel and Curley Winery in Plant city, a family-owned vineyard that specializes in blueberry wines.
• The quiet town of Webster has the state’s largest flea market and farmer’s market, but it’s only open on Monday. Schedule your visit for the warmer months, since it’s crowded with seasonal residents in winter.
• Silver Springs State Park in Ocala is home to the famous glass-bottomed boats that offer a perfect view of the crystal-clear waters.
• Take a day to visit the 10 tropical acres of the Sarasota Jungle Gardens. More than 200 animals are here, including flamingos, parrots, macaws, snakes and lizards.
• Fans of rare orchids and bromeliads make the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens a frequent stop in Sarasota.
Tampa, and particularly St. Petersburg, have been known as retirement havens for decades. Although it’s far from its sleepy reputation of old, it remains a very attractive new address for retirees. You’ll have a wide range of choices in housing, whether you’re looking for a single-family home or condominium, or want the carefree lifestyle of a 55+ adult community.
You’ll also see your retirement income go a bit farther here, since there is no state income tax and property taxes are about two percent.
Tampa was named the #2 retirement destination in the state by the personal-finance website WalletHub, with nearby St. Petersburg at #14, Clearwater at #10, and Sarasota at #1. The rankings are based on key indicators for retirees, such as health care facilities per capita, the cost of living, and the number of nearby attractions.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area recently had the third-highest number of jobs of all the metro areas in the state and the unemployment rate is falling. Tampa had the most high-wage/high-skill STEM job openings in Florida in 2019, plus a strong economy in real estate, retail, healthcare, tourism, and national defense.
The top employers in Tampa include:
• BayCare Health System
• Publix Supermarkets
• The University of South Florida
• Tampa General Hospital
• JP Morgan Chase
• Busch Gardens
• MacDill Air Force Base
Tampa has its good and bad sides like any other city. Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about making the move:
• As one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, Tampa-St. Pete has more conveniences and cultural assets for residents every day. You can live in a quiet community yet still be close to the best of city living.
• Warm weather and miles of sunny beaches mean you’ll never have to stock up on winter clothes or keep a snow shovel handy. The average high in January is 70 degrees!
• According to NerdWallet.com, Tampa-St. Pete tops the list of best cities for millennial job seekers in Florida.
• Tampa has very diverse communities, so you’ll never run short of arts, culture and food from around the world.
• The threat of a hurricane strike looms each year from June through November. Tampa hasn’t taken a direct hit from a major hurricane recently, but meteorologists predict the city is long overdue. If you’ve never lived in a hurricane-prone zone, it’s critical to be prepared for long power outages, flooding, or even evacuating the state.
• Cooler months bring the snowbirds, so some of your favorite local hot spots (and traffic) can get a little crowded.
• Heat and humidity can be tough to deal with, particularly if you’re coming from a really cold climate or have health issues. Plan on staying inside with the air conditioner running nonstop from June through September.
• Rental prices are on a steady rise in the area. Before you move here, make sure to do your homework on neighborhoods and housing.